On Saturday night the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was filled with fans waving Filipino flags as their country’s favorite son, welterweight Manny Pacquiao, walked towards the ring to face Timothy Bradley for the third time.
They cheered ‘Manny, Manny, Manny!’ throughout the night. The difference this time is that it was possibly the last.
When Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank Inc., announced the fight with Bradley it was met with little fan fare. On paper it was billed as the rubber match of a trilogy but the widely held belief in the boxing world is that Pacquiao won both fights handily. The main selling point was going to be that Bradley had a new trainer in Teddy Atlas who has an unfriendly relationship with Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach. That was the case until at the initial press conference Pacquiao announced that this fight would be his last.
The problem with that is no one around Pacquiao believes him. Arum hasn’t promoted the fight as a farewell & Roach hasn’t treated it as such either. That is for good reason.
Retirement announcements in boxing in the modern era have had little to no legitimacy. From heavyweight Evander Holyfield in the early 2000s to more recently welterweights Floyd Mayweather, Paulie Malignaggi, and Brandon Rios retirement is just a vacation. Rarely is the case such as with super middleweight Joe Calzaghe where a retirement actually sticks. The main culprits of this are usually money and not wanting to let go of the limelight.
With Pacquiao both factors point to him fighting again.
First was the report that Pacquiao had to get a $2 million advance from Top Rank to agree to the Bradley fight. This was after making a nine figure payday last May 2 in the megafight with Mayweather. To still need an advance after that speaks to the money and tax issues plaguing Pacquiao for years.
Then there is the damage that Pacquiao’s reputation took from the Mayweather fight. When he revealed that he had a shoulder injury which was not disclosed to the Nevada State Athletic Commission beforehand it was seen more as an excuse for the loss he took to Mayweather. The revelation became more of a conspiracy theory as time went on and Pacquiao’s image has not completely recovered to this day. Pacquiao further damaged that reputation when in a Filipino interview he was quoted as stating that the LGBT community were ‘worse than animals’ causing an uproar that hovered over promotion of the Bradley fight.
If any of these factors will play more of a factor into Pacquaio going back to the ring, it will be money. As a congressman he is a benefactor to many in his native Philippines and has to have a person on payroll that says ‘No’ to beggars as he himself can’t turn people down. Pacquiao has both built and saved schools on his own dime even as the tax issues hovered over him. No longer boxing to pursue higher political office in the Filipino Senate will put a serious dent into his philanthropic efforts as the annual salary of that position being equal to just over $9,000 dollars as compared to the millions he gets for one night in the ring.
Pacquiao’s constituents know this as well. His philanthropy along with his skills in the ring have made Pacquiao the most beloved man in the Philippines. Every victory brings celebration and every defeat, especially that last two to perennial rivals Juan Manuel Marquez and Mayweather, bring despair. Even after defeating Bradley convincingly again on Saturday, the desire of the Filipino people to have those two losses avenged by their favorite son won’t go away. A revenge match, especially against Mayweather, will not only bring another chance at celebrating but another major purse that will be used for essential services.
Pacquiao will have a celebrated career to look back should he hang up the gloves for good. He has won ten world titles in a record eight weight divisions and as of Saturday being declared the lineal champion in five.
Chances are though that because of circumstances out of his control those fans cheering for Pacquiao on Saturday will get to do so again later this year.